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When Hollywood meets a ski world.

By the middle of this month, some of Hollywood's "in" restaurants and smart clubs will be missing many of their regular celebrity guests. It's not that these film stars, producers and behind-the-scenes money men have abandoned their favorite haunts. It's just that they've temporarily left Sunset Boulevard and Rodeo Drive in sunny Los Angeles for Main Street in a little, snow-bound mountain town called Park City, Utah.

There's good reason for the move. For 11 days, Park City becomes center of the film world as the Sundance Film Festival celebrates international independent movies. This year some 60,000 members of the film community from around the world are expected to converge on Park City. This is, in fact, the 32nd anniversary of the Festival which, in 1985, was taken under the wings of Robert Redford's Sundance Institute and assumed its present name.

Those film folks coming for the events needn't worry that their influx will in any way tax the ability of the town to accommodate them in a manner to which many are accustomed, either. That's because Park City is one of the top winter resorts in North America. Granted, the town itself only has a year around population of just 8,000 and even if you count the residents of nearby communities, the area's resident population is just about 25,000.

But while tucked within the peaks of the Wasatch Mountains that rise to more than 10,000 feet, the town is at the nexus of two ski resorts--Park City Mountain Resort, boasting the largest terrain in the USA, and Deer Valley Resort, consistently rated at the very top of ski rankings for grooming, on-mountain dining and service levels. The resorts are located within five miles of each other permitting winter sports enthusiasts to go from one to the other to try out different ski and snowboarding runs.

Historic Main Street Park City serves as a 'base' for both resorts and even features a Town Lift that connects Main Street to Park City Mountain. Both resorts have elegant hotels and lodges supplemented with condo accommodations conveniently available right in and close by Park City proper. These range from the super luxurious to great little B&Bs.

Having started in mid-November, the 2017 winter season is already well under way. In a typical year, Park City will receive some 350 inches of what its promoters like to describe as the "lightest, driest powder on earth." And conditions permitting, the ski and boarding season will continue nonstop until mid-April which coincides with the Easter holiday this year.

There's no question that the western United States offer visitors a variety of ski destinations that rival in scope and amenities the finest ones found in Europe. But Park City likes to point out that it has some distinctive qualities that make it stand out from its rivals.

For one thing there's the matter of accessibility. Some major winter resorts in the Rocky Mountains, for example, may be as much as a five hour drive from the nearest international airport. In contrast, Park City is just a 35 minute drive from Salt Lake International Airport via Interstate Highway 80. That's a far cry from most mountain access roads, too. Built to serve the area for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, it's a six lane road that is kept open despite storms by a small fleet of snow plows.

At the end of that short drive, winter sports enthusiasts will enjoy a staggering choice of facilities. Between them, the two ski resorts offer more than 9,000 acres of skiable terrain with over 400 trails reached via 62 lifts. It is notable that Deer Valley remains one of just three resorts in the USA that is 'ski-only,' meaning snowboarding is not allowed. While most lifts at Deer Valley and Park City run up until about 4 PM, four of the lifts at Park City Mountain operate until between 6 and 7 PM to accommodate skiers and boarders seeking an exciting night-ski experience.

In addition to the considerable action provided on the mountain slopes, Park City enjoys a residual benefit from being the host city for 14 medal events during the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City. Those facilities used in the competitions then remain active, concentrated in what is now the 400-acre Utah Olympic Park. It's located just five miles from downtown Park City and served by the city's free bus system that connects with the Park's own free shuttle.

But in the view of Bill Malone, president and CEO of the Park City Convention & Visitors Bureau, there's considerably more to the destination than ski lifts, breath-taking views and action on the endless runs. "We're a real town," he says. "We're not just a resort created alongside an interstate highway by some developer. It has a much different feel than most other ski resorts."

As one example, Malone points to the historic Main Street that's been around since the mid 1800s, "We have a character and a feel of reality," he says. It is magical to be in a town where 47 buildings along Main Street are on the National Register of Historic Places. Then there's the matter of personality and the community's involvement.

"Guests appreciate that they're in a real place with real people." On the way to the lifts a visitor may come across a stop where a group of youngsters waiting for their school bus to come by. Or when getting coffee and a bagel in a shop they're in the company of locals heading to work.

"When people are on vacation, I know that they like to get a sense of community, where they can converse and interact with residents and here they can do that," says Malone.

Norman Sklarewitz brings to travel a solid background in hard-news reporting. This includes staff positions as a Far East Correspondent for The Wall Street Journal based in Tokyo and L.A. Bureau Chief with U.S. News & World Report. As a foreign correspondent, he reported on major international events throughout Asia, including the Vietnam War.
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Title Annotation:LIFE; Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah
Author:Sklarewitz, Norman
Publication:World and I
Geographic Code:1U8UT
Date:Jan 1, 2017
Words:1015
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